An article on Slashdot prompted me to look up some history on the Russian Buran space vehicle.  Not many remember now that the Russians had their very own copy of the NASA Space Shuttle.  It had only one orbital flight, and then the USSR collapsed and the program, which was motivated entirely by ego, was ended shortly after.

Something jumped out at me while reading about that lone flight.  It was unmmanned, because the life support and other systems weren’t complete.  This spacecraft took off, orbited twice, and then landed by itself, less than 5 feet from the runway centerline, overcoming a 34MPH crosswind to do so. This is was in 1988, using Russian computer trechnology, which was famously inferior. I find this astonishing.

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  1. yeah….

    and i bet with cheap labor in Russia the U.S. could get these made at almost a semi-disposable level…


    They still don’t know how this recently discovered one wound up in the Bahrain.

    (wasn’t their shuttle a bit shorter/smaller than ours though)

  2. the program, which was motivated entirely by ego,

    lol yeah i am sure the fact that we had them convinced we would soon have an ungodly amount of weapons and surveillance leverage from space, in a plan we deliberately designed to drive them to financial crumbling trying to keep up in space programs, had nothing to do with it 😉

    1. FWIW, I took that from one of the articles I was reading about it, it wasn’t my own presumption. Although considering Russia’s generally excellent track-record with traditional one-use launch vehicles, it’s hard to see the Buran as anything other than an example of the constant “he’s-got-one-so-we-need-one-too” phenomena of the space race (there doesn’t seem to be any question, at least, that it was introduced in reaction to the US shuttle). Russia’s strength was in building their spacecraft simple and robust – it seems to me they could have much more easily competed with us on a pound-for-pound basis by launching hardware with their enourmous conventional boosters.

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